Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing closing engine gap through support from Exxon/Mobil

Sergio Perez Red Bull
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Changing equipment can disrupt a team, but Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez have successfully added their imprint to last year’s Honda powerplant as they take over the engine building responsibilities for 2022 with an assist from Exxon/Mobil fuel technologies.

“Having Mobil with us is a strong partnership with Red Bull and has been very important to deliver one of the most competitive power units and cars that we have,” Sergio Perez told NBC Sports prior to on-track activity for the 2022 Miami Grand Prix. “We came from a really intense season last year where and we developed the cars right up until the end. Having that consistency and philosophy has been amazing.

“It was certainly a great effort done by Mobil to provide us with the right tools and the close relationship that they have with our boys really made the difference.”

As the transition began in 2021, teammate Max Verstappen was embroiled in a tight battle with Lewis Hamilton to deliver the team their first Drivers’ Championship since 2013 when Sebastian Vettel went on an incredible late-season run and won nine consecutive races at the end. He sprinted away with the title.

The competition was much tighter in 2021 with the decision still uncertain until the final restart when a controversial ending to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gave Verstappen his first title.

As Verstappen played a chess match with his Mercedes challenger, Perez was one of the strongest drivers in the field with podium results in three straight races from Istanbul through Mexico City and a pair of top-fives immediately following. A crash in Jeddah and an oil pressure issue in the season-ender at Abu Dhabi derailed Perez’s momentum, which was compounded by a failure to finish in the 2022 season-opener at Bahrain.

In fact, both Perez and Verstappen had fuel pump problems in the closing laps in the Bahrain Grand Prix and failed to earn any points. They bounced back in Round 2. Verstappen won the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix. Perez finished fourth and light shined on the horizon.

In Round 4, Red Bull finished 1-2 with seven different teams in the next seven positions.

It won’t take long to make up the deficit suffered in Round 1, Perez said: “We just have to keep progressing. I think we have a good package. Unfortunately, we’ve been really unlucky with reliability at the start of the season and I’ve been unlucky with fuel issues, but without those issues we have been in it for the championship – both championships.

“It’s fairly early in the season but I’m confident we have a good package.”

Red Bull chose the right time to make their change.

The surprisingly stout Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc, who has won two of the first four Formula 1 rounds of 2022, and Carlos Sainz Jr., with two podium finishes, put them at the top of the Constructor’s battle, but by only 11 points over Red Bull. In third, Mercedes has struggled and currently sits 36 points behind the leader.

But appearances can be deceiving and Perez acknowledges there is a long season ahead and many hard-fought battles that still must be won.

“You can see the gap is such a small gap that small improvements can make a huge difference, so there’s certainly some very fast drivers up there,” Perez said. 

Kyle Larson wins third consecutive High Limit Sprint race at Eagle Raceway, Rico Abreu second again

Larson High Limit Eagle
High Limit Racing - Twitter

It took four attempts for Kyle Larson to win his first High Limit Sprint Car Series race in the series he co-owns with brother-in-law Brad Sweet, but once he found victory lane, he has been undefeated with his win at Eagle (Nebraska) Raceway. For the second week, Abreu led early only to fall prey to Larson.

The win was Larson’s third straight victory and the fifth consecutive top-five, giving him a perfect sweep of the season after finishing 10th in last year’s inaugural race at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana.

Larson started third behind Abreu and Brent Marks but was embroiled in a fierce battle with Anthony Macri for third during the first dozen laps. Larson slipped by Macri in traffic until a red flag waved for a flip by Lachlan McHugh.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Marks retook the lead from Abreu on Lap 18. Larson followed one lap later and then caution waved again. Tyler Courtney lost power and fell to 24th after starting eighth.

Marks scooted away on the restart but tragedy struck in Lap 26. Leading the race, Marks hit a pothole in Turn 1, bicycled and then flipped, handing the lead to Larson.

Abreu caught Larson again during the final laps and in a reprise of their battle at Tri-City Speedway, the two threw sliders at one another for several laps until Larson built some separation and ran away to the checkers.

“I didn’t feel like my pace in [Turns] 1 & 2 slowed down a ton,” Larson said from victory lane. “I missed it once there and then I saw his nose in 3 & 4. I didn’t know if he nailed the bottom that well behind me and I think he might have slid me in the next corner, so he was definitely on the top.

“I was nervous to move up there because my car was really pogoing up in the entry of 1. I got up just in time, made a few mistakes and he threw a couple more sliders at me but he was just a little too far back and I was able to squirt around him. Then I really had to commit to hitting my marks – back my effort down a bit to avoid mistakes.”

After leading early, Abreu fell back as far as sixth, but faith in his car kept hope alive.

“I just needed to do a few things a few laps before I did and fix some angles, then my car got a whole lot better,” Abreu said. “I’m thankful for this team; they do an amazing job. They don’t give up on me. I know my car is going to be there right at the end of these races, so it’s just the discipline of being patient.”

For Abreu, it was his third near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps and he lost the lead to Larson late in the Tri-City Speedway race. Abreu has finished sixth or better in his last three High Limit races with each result being progressively better until his pair of runner-up results.

Third-place finisher Scelzi was the hard charger, advancing from 17th.

“I had a very specific plan; don’t go near [the hole in Turn 1],” Scelzi said. “It worked out. No one wanted to start on the top. I think I gained a couple of rows there on the choose cone and ran the middle, which seemed to be better than right around the bottom.”

Michael “Buddy” Kofoid in fourth and Macri rounded out the top five.

World of Outlaws star and former NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne was one of 41 entrants, but he was not among the 26 starters. He failed to advance to the Main after finishing eighth in the B Main and seventh in his heat.

Feature Results

A Feature (40 Laps): 1. 57-Kyle Larson[4]; 2. 24-Rico Abreu[1]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[17]; 4. 71-Michael Kofoid[5]; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri[3]; 6. 9-Chase Randall[9]; 7. 26-Zeb Wise[14]; 8. 1X-Jake Bubak[15]; 9. 8-Aaron Reutzel[10]; 10. 14D-Corey Day[18]; 11. 11-Cory Eliason[12]; 12. 5T-Ryan Timms[11]; 13. 88-Austin McCarl[13]; 14. 21H-Brady Bacon[22]; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich[16]; 16. 7S-Robbie Price[19]; 17. 21-Brian Brown[23]; 18. 22-Riley Goodno[26]; 19. 52-Blake Hahn[25]; 20. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[21]; 21. 3J-Dusty Zomer[6]; 22. 14-Cole Macedo[7]; 23. 19-Brent Marks[2]; 24. 7BC-Tyler Courtney[8]; 25. 25-Lachlan McHugh[20]; 26. 53-Jack Dover[24]

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway
Race 4: Kyle Larson wins at Tri-City Speedway